After hours and hours of staring at my computer monitor as I organized information in preparation of handing off a major project, I was feeling like this sunflower looks. Then my phone rang.
July 3, 2021
It was Wildebeest calling as he walked home from his restaurant shift. He told me about a co-worker getting ripped off by a higher-up and how awesome it felt when another co-worker stood up to management on behalf of the slighted co-worker. Unfortunately (and predictably), nothing was done.
So, in the true spirit of Labor Day, I put a bug in Wildebeest’s ear about getting his co-workers to stand together. I said if they all refused to take shifts with this certain higher-up until the situation was rectified, management would be forced to take action. Wildebeest liked that idea.
Will he follow through? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I planted an idea and the thought of those workers someday (soon, I hope) using their collective power to force change perks me up immensely.
Solidarity with all workers around the globe!
Saturday was the official end-of-Mentor-Program picnic in the mountains.
I gave my mentor, Claudia Mills, a little plaque that included this:
This morning I ran on the trails and fell.
But it was the best fall, ever.
When I told Zebu that, he asked "Did you stick it on the dismount?"
Today I start my new plan for BIRD BRAIN,
which is to rewrite chapters from scratch.
I’ve been working on voice/characterization but it feels as if I’m
nickel and diming the story.
So….time to get serious and write it anew.
I hope everyone’s Monday is off to a stellar start, and that the week just keeps getting
better and better.
Last night I reached that point of delirium with my revisions.
You’re probably familiar with that point.
When your tweaking is possibly doing more damage than good?
So I said, "¡Bastante!"
and sent the ms off to Claudia (and another reader friend).
Then I cracked open a beer.
But today’s a whole new day, and without those revisions to shape my day I feel, well, shapeless.
What shall I do?!
I know! I’ll dig out the file for BIRD BRAIN and reacquaint myself with that story.
(image from http://www.morguefile.com)
That creaking sound you hear?
Just my brain switching gears.
I’m working on my final chapter, and feel good about most all of it
except for the last few lines.
I know I’ll get there but it’s a bit maddening to have come this far
only to be flummoxed.
I’m not quite sure why, but this photo from last summer feels right for this post:
© 2010 Tracy Abell
Maybe because I found out via this link, that younger ants usually take care of the queen and brood,
while the older ants typically have the more dangerous tasks of foraging and defense.
I’m definitely an older ant,
and writing towards The End can sometimes feel a bit dangerous. Scary.
But I have to keep crawling around my final page, foraging for those just-right words to end my story.
(And for a little off-topic Ha-ha, here’s a snippet from the above link: "Ant colonies are grossly divided into queens, males, and workers. The job of the queen is to lay eggs. The males generally do nothing for the colony. They wander around accepting food from the workers until the time comes for mating. They die almost immediately after mating." Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the ultimate fantasy?)
I just printed out the latest draft of my final chapter.
It’s not quite where I want it to be, but it’s definitely getting closer.
I’m not yet giddy with excitement, but I’m fast approaching goofy.
Or maybe that should be daffy.
Loony? Nutty? Dotty?
Guess the only thing I know for sure is that whatever this is I’m experiencing, it ends with a y.
I met with Claudia yesterday to go over revisions.
The take-home quote of the day?
You’ve done an excellent job building tension in the story; it builds and builds and builds.
Like an orgasm.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I create orgasm-worthy middle-grade fiction.
But I don’t think I’ll mention that as a selling point when it comes time to schedule school visits.
In case anyone wonders where I am today,
I’m hunkered down in the revision cave.
Thank you for the kind words of support yesterday.
I made progress and feel good about it even though I feel a bit like this. . .
© 2010 Tracy Abell
(I don’t, however, have the catfish-like facial hair and anyone who says different is lying).
I meet with Claudia on Thursday to go over revisions.
You may remember my glee at the progress I was making.
At that point in time, I was confident I’d fly through the rest of the revisions.
I told Claudia we were going to celebrate Earth Day together by reviewing all remaining chapters.
As in, every single chapter through The End!
Well, soon after shooting off my mouth I slammed right into a Wall of Doubt.
There is no way I’ll have the revisions finished by the day after tomorrow.
There’s only thing left to do: Get as much done as possible and hope Claudia isn’t overly disappointed.
I’ve revised about two-thirds of my manuscript
and when I met with Claudia last week,
she cautioned me that in the final third
I must deliver on the tension developed thus far.
She’s right, of course.
But when you’ve ripped up your story’s floorboards
and knocked down a bunch of its walls,
it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out how to construct the remaining pieces.
Especially when you’re not entirely sure what pieces will be there.
But Claudia has a great method for writing the second half of your book:
Go back to the first half to see what’s there,and then use those elements in the latter part.
- The nosy neighbor down the street
- The red and white twirly skirt
- The dripping faucet
- The neglected lawn
- Best friend’s activist Grandma
- The tiny photo album
These final chapters will require lots of new writing,
but at this point I’m only taking notes.
Lots of notes.
My middle mind had me include those elements for a reason,
and I trust that in time I will see how to construct a satisfying ending.
But sometimes you have to look back in order to move ahead.
I’m back home after my fourth meeting
with my mentor, Claudia Mills.
And I just want to say,
if you ever have the opportunity to participate
in a SCBWI-sponsored mentor program,
Claudia isn’t just an ace at pacing and tension,
unafraid to tell me when I’ve struck the wrong note,
but also a mentor who is generous with her praise.
I practically float home after sessions with her.
She not only makes me feel good about what I’ve accomplished
but also fills me with a steely determination to meet her expections.
I never, ever want her to regret the compliments she’s given me and my writing.
And because so much of this journey is spent alone, in my head,
I’m going to be bold and link to Claudia’s blog post from today
in which she said insanely nice things about my writing.
You know, for those days when I’m feeling delusional.
Check out your local SCBWI chapter to see if you have a mentor program.
If not, maybe you can get one started.
Because every writer needs a Claudia in her corner.
My revisions are due to Claudia in two days
and I’ve still got lots to do.
I’m cutting some stuff I hope to use later,
adding new material to make the story flow,
and moving scenes around.
Claudia said during our last meeting,
"I think I’m better at structure [than you]."
I had to laugh because this revision process
has proved something I already suspected:
while I’m a very good writer (meaning, I use words well),
I have to work harder to be a good storyteller.
I have to consciously think about structure and pace
so that I do my characters justice in the way I let their stories unfold.
I am learning.
All this work with Claudia is helping me think
about my writing in a whole new way,
and I’m confident the lessons I’m learning while
revising CLOSE TO HOME
are lessons I will carry with me on every book to come.
And that’s what being a writer is all about:
bringing your always-improving game with you to each and every story.